Past Perfect
While her interiors are of-the-moment, designer Amy Lau finds inspiration in all that's come before.

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Although she's a modernist at heart, one would be hard­pressed to pin Amy Lau down when it comes to just which period, which style, or which creator she likes best. The designer is known for her boundless energy and smarts, and her rooms reflect it. Her finished product is a culmination of many periods and styles curated by Lau and incorporated into her work. It revolves around her go to's but also what captures her eye at any given moment.

"Bauhaus, Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism, OpArt, contemporary, the Italian — I love so much that's out there," says Lau, although she professes that one of her bigger soft spots is for Art Nouveau. "I'm captivated, especially since it covered such a short period of time, but the work translated very well worldwide. Artistically, it's so beautiful and well- crafted."

Amy Lau, photo by Paolo Goltara

Last year, Lau traveled to Kyoto and fell in love with the delicate design she found at every turn. "The subtleties, the sense of craftsmanship in their techniques — from lacquer work to hand­carved pieces to utilitarian wares that look like individual artworks themselves—it was all so special," she recounts.

Works of other countries hold huge interest for her too, like those out of Latin America — Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in particular. Scandinavian design has always been a draw for Lau, as is the Vienna Secessionist period about which she exclaims, "I love it!

"Currently, I'm looking at a lot of Islamic art," Lau points out, since current client projects in the Middle East take her to that part of the globe. Because of her background — she grew up in Arizona — Lau also has an affinity for Native American art, and revels in the more simplistic styles of some of the U.S.'s earliest cultures.

"What I am constantly seeking for clients is something different, something they can call their own when it comes to the interior design of their home," she tells us. "Bringing in a variety of styles and periods refreshes a room and helps me accomplish that." Lau's methodology toward that end is customization, which she employs again and again in her work. Part of the reason for her doing so is out of a desire to create an original environment but also out of a true liking. The designer is fascinated with the handmade, and is always on the hunt for pieces that are well sculpted and done by skilled workers. Craftsmanship isn't lost on her, and the transformation that an original object can make — even if it's to a corner of a room or as a stand alone object on a shelf — is unmistakable.

Abstract geometrics provide visual delight in the bedroom of a downtown New York apartment. The owners are collectors of important mid-20th-Century pieces

As for creators whom Lau admires, the list is boundless: Borsani, for his timeless, elegant mid­century designs, or Gio Ponti, the talented architect and furniture designer (not to mention artist, professor and publisher) and his work for Cassina; the Superleggera chair — or glass pieces he designed for Venini. Lau is also a huge fan of the work of Dutch designer Theo Ruth. "I just finished a beach house and used a lot of Ruth pieces there," she says. "I love him because he's known but not known. He fashions geometric shapes like many designers, but is really a master." Ruth's luscious pieces — like the all-white Penguin Chair, the Tongue Chair (yes, shaped as such) present abstract forms that would surely make any set dresser for TV's Mad Men drool. "I always go for abstraction first thing."

"With all of my work, I love seeing how the variety of pieces come together," concludes Lau. "I go deep to find something that I really want. It opens up another world. It's the first step on a fantastic journey."